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(“He won’t do the little things he always did because you’re now a ‘Liberated Woman,’ right? Dishwashers, washing machines, and vacuum cleaners rendered clean-up a cinch.”) At the end of the 2,000-word essay, Mainardi signs off with the following: “I was just finishing this when my husband came in and asked what I was doing. Yet while a woman could become an accomplished homemaker and mother, she’d never receive the same level of praise, adulation, and respect as a husband who worked outside the home.As feminist groups of the 1960s and ’70s strove to hone their positions on the issues, organizing (and reorganizing) was commonplace, helping to establish not just what these activists believed in, but which fights in particular were of the highest priority—and what the best tactics might be to achieve them.
In her 1970 essay “The Politics of Housework,” Pat Mainardi, a member of the radical feminist group Redstockings, lays out a step-by-step guide to persuade men to do their fair share of “dirty chores” around the house. Many of the tasks that had once consumed a homemaker’s day were transformed by technological innovation.
Mainardi explains that her husband “would stop at nothing to avoid the horrors of housework.” Instead, she writes, he offered her excuses: “I don’t mind sharing the housework, but I don’t do it very well,” and “You’ll have to show me how to do it.” So Mainardi provides a list, a way to train her husband, which also serves as a primer for women to put men to work. Periodically consider who’s actually doing the jobs … It’s the daily grind that gets you down.” Despite the practical advice, a sense of futility pervades the piece. Items once crafted by hand could now be bought off the rack; meals that once required extensive preparation were replaced by processed and prepared foods.
The essay was republished national magazines including , there were thousands of letter responses …
A number of people said, ‘How did you ever get him to agree?
With so many causes and considerations for feminist activists to adjudicate, housework fell by the wayside in the majority of feminist platforms.
The International Feminist Collective felt that this was a mistake—one they did not intend to replicate.
In the summer of 1972, during a trip back home to Italy, Federici stopped in Padua, where Dalla Costa was then living.
That meeting led to the founding of the International Feminist Collective, a group of women dedicated to starting a campaign they called “Wages for Housework,” by establishing local committees in large cities in their home countries, which included Italy, England, Germany, the United States, and Canada.
Their Wages for Housework movement, they hoped, would promote a political philosophy that promised true liberation for women.
Some feminists felt that domestic labor was, in itself, a mechanism of women’s oppression, with no other purpose but to keep women busy with meaningless, unstimulating labor so they wouldn’t rise up and demand an equal place alongside men.